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Phoenix Mercury president on seeing Brittney Griner after Russia release

Phoenix Mercury president on seeing Brittney Griner after Russia release

A new photo emerges from the day WNBA player Brittney Griner flew back home to arizona From Texas after being released from prison in Russia.

In the picture, the Phoenix Mercury player was all smiles and was surrounded by team members and others.

Mercury president Vince Kozar spoke to Scripps station KNXV in Phoenix about what the moment was like. KNXV reporter Nick Ciletti was on the plane on its way back to Arizona.

Grey: ,Take me back to the moment where you actually saw her in person for the first time.”

Kozar: “We got down and surprised her and it was a really special moment that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

This heartfelt reunion was almost a year in the making.

Kozar was there along with teammate Diana Taurasi, Griner’s wife Cherrelle, and Mercury’s general manager Jim Pittman.

Syletti: “How did he react when he saw you guys for the first time?”

Kozar: “She was very excited and that’s what I go back to. People have asked, Was it emotional? Were there tears? Beyond any fear or sadness or anything that comes with it.”

Until that moment and a quick FaceTime call the night before, Kozar was the only glimpse of Griner the rest of the world got. The two-time Olympic athlete and fierce competitor on the basketball court is handcuffed and fighting for her freedom thousands of miles away in Russia.

Brittany Griner

Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP
WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittany Griner is driven into a courtroom for a hearing in Khimki, just outside Moscow, Russia, Thursday, July 7, 2022. Jailed American basketball star Brittney Griner returned to a Russian court on Thursday. A growing chorus of calls for Washington to do more warrant her release, nearly five months after she was arrested on drug charges. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Griner was arrested at a Russian airport in February 2022 and detained for having cannabis oil inside his luggage, even though he had a medical license for it in Arizona. She went to trial, was convicted, then sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison camp. KNXV reported that Griner cut off his long hair to keep from freezing in the brutal Russian cold.

He talked about it all on the plane back to Arizona.

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VIDEO: Brittany Griner lands in San Antonio after being released from Russian custody

“We talked about basketball. How much she missed it. What she wanted to do. What our team was doing last year without her. It went the gamut. And as weird as it sounds, it’s almost It’s just as you left it,” said Kozar.

“That’s him [Brittney Griner]Obviously, no one can be exactly the same after going through that, but she’s just a really, really special and resilient person.”

But now, Kozar says the real work begins. He says he is ready to return to the court. On her own, she’s practicing, working out, and getting reacquainted with her old friend, basketball, but she’s also not forgetting about her new mission off the court.

“It’s a good reminder that there is a list of people detained overseas who cannot see their families. [Brittney] There is a name in that list but we have crossed it out. We’re on to the next person on that list. I know it’s his job, I know it’s Cherrell’s job. We as an organization are committed to being a part of that legacy,” Kozar said.

mercury griner wnba basketball

Miguel A. Negron/AP
This photo provided by the US military shows WNBA star Brittany Griner following her release in a prisoner exchange with Russia at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Friday, Dec. 9, 2022.

Timeline: Brittany Griner’s time in Russian custody, prisoner swap

As far as her return to the WNBA is concerned, Griner said in an Instagram post last month that she wants to play again and be a member of the Phoenix Mercury. Currently, he is a free agent and will be out of contract in a few weeks.

This story was originally published by Scripps Station knxv In Phoenix, Arizona, with adjustments and additions made by Scripps News.

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